On Saturday, the Revolution arrived in Columbus like bosses. Yes, thanks to the graciousness of their owner/operator, along with an obscure MLS rule that governs the use of charter flights, the team bypassed the usual commercial flight and flew to the Ohio capital the same way Drake travels to and from Toronto. And really, was there a better time for it than this weekend?
After a thrilling and trying 33 games, the Revolution find themselves on the doorstep of their first trip to the postseason since 2009 in game 34. If all goes according to schedule, it’ll be a trip that has been four long seasons in the making. A trip that’s required a complete overhaul of the roster and coaching staff. A trip that many thought we wouldn’t see this season.
Indeed, it’s been a long four seasons, especially in an area of the country in which we’re accustomed to winning and raising trophies. Many times, it appeared that the Revolution would never snap out of their largely self-inflicted skid. That the soccer gods would abandon the Revolution once again in 2013.
But as they get set to embark on the most important 90 minutes of the season on Sunday afternoon, it’s clear that the Revolution have written their own destiny – a destiny they control when they step onto the pitch at Crew Stadium. And it’s a destiny with a backstory that hasn’t been as smooth as the flight the Revolution took on the private charter to Columbus.
No doubt, it all boils down to what happens on Sunday. But before we get into the season finale festivities across the league, let’s look at the question’s surrounding Sunday’s epic clash in Columbus.
1. Will Andy Dorman get another start? No doubt he deserves it. What we saw last week was the Welshman many expected to see on a regular basis after returned to the Revs after a five-year European stint. He not only strengthened the midfield by giving it the bite it lacked in recent weeks, he was a force in the final third as well. After getting fouled not once, but twice to set the stage for the Revolution’s first two goals, Dorman then linked up with Diego Fagundez for the game-winner late. One game may only be one game, and it’s difficult to judge a player by 90 minutes. But the way that Dorman played last Saturday should’ve been enough to earn a spot in the starting lineup on Sunday – even if it’s at the expense of Scott Caldwell, or even Lee Nguyen. After all, if it’s about fielding the best XI each week, it’s clear that Dorman’s in top form, and ready to contribute in Columbus.
2. Does Jay Heaps stick with Jerry Bengtson up top? At first blush, the answer would appear to be a definite “no.” Within a 65 minute performance reminiscent of Juan Manuel Abundis, Bengtson managed to string a few passes together, but not with any type of consistency. Nor did he look particularly bold inside the final third. In other words, he looked like the same striker who can’t seem to do the one thing he’s paid to do: score goals. That’s like a goalkeeper who doesn’t stop shots, or a midfielder who can’t pass. Fortunately for the Honduran, though, the Revolution attack wasn’t terribly hampered, even if it waited to score two of its three goals after he exited. But with Sene out for the rest of the season, and Heaps a proponent of putting Juan Agudelo on the right, it seems as if we may see Bengtson again up top on Sunday. And, barring a sudden return to form, the Revolution will likely have to rely on others to put the ball in the back of the net.
3. Are we in for a repeat for the kind of game we saw last Saturday? Well, the 26,458 that turned out to last week’s home finale sure picked the right game to go to. Within a 17-minute span in the second half, the Revolution and Crew combined for four goals, including the game-winner which, of course, was scored by the mohawked face of the franchise. A defensive clinic it was not, as both teams went all-out to keep their postseason hopes alive. But with the Crew out of it thanks to last week’s loss, it’s unlikely we’ll see the offensive explosion we saw last week. Granted, the Revolution are still approaching Sunday’s game as a must-win, even though they could still get into the postseason with a loss of the out if the town scoreboard cooperates. But we all know that they don’t like to rely on outside help to determine their destiny. In light of that, expect the Revolution to feature a conservative streak in the attack. They’ll still look to attack from the start, but they don’t want to leave too much space open in the rear as a result. The same goes for the Crew, who’ll do everything they can to make it hard on the Revolution. Taking this into account, it wouldn’t be surprising if the final score was 1-0 or even 1-1.
4.Will Diego Fagundez find the back of the net again? It’s never easy to predict how well a player will do against a given team on a given week, but you have to like the teenager’s chances. He’s scored in each of his last two contests against the Crew, and has scored on three of his last five shots on goal. Clearly, the kid is hot, and not just because he’s the Justin Bieber of MLS. Well, maybe to the teenage girls, he is. But on the field, Fagundez has been fire. His ability to sneak under defenses and pick his spots with borderline prescience has been remarkable, and his ability to do it when the Revolution have needed it the most is the stuff of folk tales. True, it the Crew may have taken the lessons learned from Saturday’s game and figured out a way to contain Fagundez. Then again, better defenses have tried to just that, and failed.
5. Is Kevin Alston in line for the start at left back? After Chris Tierney suffered a right foot injury in the waning minutes last week, there was some concern about whether the veteran left back would be available for the season finale. That concern only grew when Tierney was listed on the injury report was “questionable,” even if that such a designation has been deemed utterly worthless by nearly every MLS coach to ever coach. Even so, it’s a situation that’s worth monitoring. If Heaps judges that Tierney may only have 60 minutes, tops, to give in a game in which the Revolution cannot afford to waste a sub, look for Alston to get the start. Then again, if we know anything about Tierney, it’s that there’s nothing that’s going to keep him from starting the club’s most important game of the season.